His Excellency's Address
Mr. President, Gentlemen—
I thank you for the confirmation of your expression of loyalty to His Majesty the King.
It is a very great pleasure for me to be present, as your Honorary Patron, at this Annual Meeting of the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, to meet the members here assembled.
Ever since 1851, when that great administrator, Sir George Grey, its President, opened the meeting of the Society, New Zealand scientists have rendered honourable service to the Dominion. Their continuous labours for the advancement of scientific knowledge and its application to the wellbeing of mankind won recognition in 1933 from the King, who then approved of your present title, “The Royal Society of New Zealand.”
From a perusal of your historical records, one is struck by the foresight and high level of enlightened interest in learning of the pioneers, and one is impressed by the extent to which progress in the early days of the Dominion was guided by the deliberations of your Society.
Amongst many matters of interest, I noted that in 1868 no fewer than 300 members were present at a meeting of the New Zealand Institute in Wellington, and that such meetings were considered an embarrassment to the Legislature, since so many members of both Houses of Parliament attended, that Parliamentary debate was severely inconvenienced.
In this age of specialisation, you will not expect me to emulate Sir George Bowen or Sir William Jervois in their detailed comprehension of contributions to the Society. Nevertheless, my education in scientific matters was not entirely restricted to “a nodding acquaintance with accepted facts,” and has enabled me to appreciate the many outstanding achievements of scientists which have influenced so profoundly the technical progress of my own service in both peace and war. As Air Member for Supply and Organisation at the Air Ministry from 1935 to 1937, and again as Chief of the Air Staff from 1937 until the end of October, 1940, I can speak with personal knowledge and deep gratitude of the great debt owed by the Royal Air Force to such men as Sir Edward Appleton, to
Blackett, Tizard, Melville-Jones, Watson-Watt, and many others, as well as to the National Physical Laboratory and the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough.
There is no branch of science which has not contributed magnificently to the solution of war problems; weapons and plans, both offensive and defensive, radar, communications, navigation, aerodynamics, medicine, agriculture, and nutrition, to mention a few.
May I here pay a humble tribute to all scientists of New Zealand and the Empire, including those who have toiled in unheralded obscurity for their resolute endeavours. They have saved many thousands of British lives and contributed in large measure to the total defeat of Germany, as we are confident they will contribute to the defeat of the Japanese.
During the past few years I have been better able to understand some of the agricultural problems of the Dominion, aided by most pleasant visits to that efficient Massey Agricultural College and that excellent “Karitane” hospital of vegetable life, the Cawthron Institute. I have heard glowing tributes to Lincoln College, which I have not yet seen but hope to visit as soon as possible.
I am told that the day will come when neither the cow nor the sheep will be essential to the production of butter or wool, but that it will merely be a matter of grass and chemistry. Possibly some of you may have read that in the year 1667 Samuel Pepys, who was a prominent member of the Royal Society in England, records in his Diary on the occasion of a visit by the Duchess of Newcastle:
“Several fine experiments were shown here, among others of one that did, while she was there, turn a piece of roasted mutton into pure blood, which was very rare.”
I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Marsden, who has been most kind in keeping me in touch with the development of scientific projects, in which I was particularly interested before I left the United Kingdom, and the general application of scientific research to the problems of the war.
It has been said, and most of you will probably agree, that although in the past we British have perhaps led the world in the field of pure science, we have not been equally good in applying it. Now, however, we have effectively shown that we can apply science to every aspect of our war effort. It is universally accepted that scientific discovery is not an end in itself, but merely a means to an end. We can therefore look forward to still closer co-operation between scientists and those responsible for the many aspects of the welfare of mankind.
Once again I congratulate you all on your great achievements. May the Royal Society of New Zealand continue to flourish throughout the war and in the future years of peace.